Elapsed Running Time [Jaw is still open. Mouth has dried out.]
Elapsed Running Time [Eye movement has ceased]
Elapsed Running Time [Pupils have become fixed]
Elapsed Running Time 34:52 [Breathing has become shallow and irregular]
Completion Plus [Wife walks in, gasps, pushes my mouth shut, slaps me back to my senses]
Such was the first experience listening to SIGH's “Hangman's Hymn.”
SIGH have created an album that plays like a symphony, divided into three chaotic movements. Not only are orchestral elements (created using synths) skillfully integrated into the music, but devices typically utilized by composers of the Classical and Romantic eras are utilized here to startling effect. An infectious motif is introduced in the opening track, “Introitus / Kyrie,” and is then used liberally throughout the other tracks on the album, before its eventual employment as the primary melody on closer “Finale: Hangman's Hymn / In Paradisium / Das Ende.” This technique serves to unify all of the songs into a cohesive unit such that, while there are indeed many standout tracks, the album becomes much more than the sum of its individual parts. Similar effect is achieved though the use of maniacal laughter to open or close several of the tracks as well.
Thematically, this album is a first person account of a protagonist who has made a Faustian bargain. Frontman and composer Mirai Kawashima has done his homework, and has used it to create something that is so thoroughly European that it is difficult to believe that this was created by musicians from an East Asian background. Classical keys and time signatures, Latin chant, and Gothic imagery combine to infuse the listener's mind with medieval imagery.
Metal fans familiar with SIGH have learned to expect the unexpected, and “Hangman's Hymn” is another sharp turn in the band's evolution. The band have set aside the jazzy psychedelic sound of the two releases immediately prior to this one, and have veered into classical territory. It is this ability to always surprise that make this band so interesting.
Perfect scores should be awarded only very rarely, and the standard for a perfect score should be a near-impossible one to achieve. With “Hangman's Hymn,” SIGH have achieved that standard. Listeners who enjoy having their notions of genre convention challenged have no excuse not to own this.